It’s good to be home.
Just ask Bob Hall, Flatwater Shakespeare’s executive director, about his company’s return to the Swan Theatre at the stables at Wyuka Cemetery.
“It’s still lovely,” Hall said Tuesday morning about the carriage house. “Just last night we had to rescue a small bird that had fallen out of its nest ... It felt like old times. That’s the fun of this place, having birds nesting there.”
On Thursday, Flatwater opened its first production in the Swan since 2010, when the cemetery shut down the stables for an $880,000 renovation.
Flatwater is presenting Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It,” with the first four and final two performances at the Swan. In between, the company will tour the show to Lincoln parks, James Arthur Vineyard and First-Plymouth Congregational Church.
“This is an experimental year to see what is the best way to make use of (the Swan),” Hall said.
When Flatwater became displaced for its 2011 summer season, the company, thanks to a three-year grant from the Woods Charitable Fund, took to the road, offering free performances of its show around Lincoln.
Last year, Flatwater again toured its summer production for free, but without the help of the grant.
“We needed to see last year if we could do it on our own,” he said. “We found (financial) support for the tour, which is good. We had a successful launch thanks to Woods. Now, we can’t see any reason not to keep the tour going.
“Combining it with the Swan … well, it’s sort of perfect.”
With “As You Like It,” Shakespeare takes two potentially tragic tales of brother against brother and transforms them into a delightful romantic comedy, featuring his most charismatic heroine, Rosalind, played by Megan Higgins.
Other principals include Emma Gruhl, Cale Yates, Scott Shoemaker, Richard Sibley, William Bryant and Tom Crew as Touchstone, one of Shakespeare’s most masterful clowns. Supporting players are Andy Dillehay, Aden Marshall, Paul Pearson, Kaylee Roach, Jess Snider, Matt Cummins, Richard Imig, Walter McDowell, Judy Thiem and Petrea Whittier.
Hall has set the comedy in the 1930s, when millions were forced into political exile around the world -- the play revolves around Rosalind’s search for her exiled father. The production will include music from Bret Olsen and Anthony Slattery, invoking a “goin’ down the road” flavor with songs by Woody Guthrie and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter.
Wyuka’s stables, built in 1909, housed horses that transported caskets to the cemetery. After horses were replaced by motor vehicles, the old stable was used to store maintenance supplies.
In June 2001, Flatwater, then called “Shakespeare in Wyuka,” presented the Bard’s “Twelfth Night” as its production in the stables. The company remained there until the renovation started.
The “new” carriage house includes the original brick walls, doors, beams, staircases, exterior windows and exterior stucco. New features include heating, air conditioning and -- this may be the most-anticipated -- restrooms. No more mobile toilets.
The stable’s biggest draw is the nearby park.
“It’s one of the lovelier parks in Lincoln, rivaling the Sunken Gardens for ambiance,” Hall said. “We’re encouraging people to come there and picnic. Kids will love seeing the swans.”
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